Christmas. It’s almost upon us. Twinkling tinsel and pimped up Christmas trees line the streets, and there’s a jingly undercurrent of Christmassy music wherever you turn.

Santa clones have double parked their sleighs in the loading dock of nearly every shopping centre in town, and are bracing themselves for the onslaught of screaming, red-faced, kiddies wrangled by hopeful parents trying to capture that perfect Christmas moment.

Christmas. It’s coming whether you’re ready or not.

Christmas means lots of different things to us here in Australia. For some families, Christmas is a very religious occasion, and for others it is more about spending time together away from work and school, and enjoying our Aussie summer. But a common theme for everyone seems to be PRESENTS. And lots of ‘em!

My memories of our last Christmas are a blur of wrapping paper and tantrums. My kids, only 3 and 18 months at the time, were swamped with gifts from their dad and I, as well as from family and friends, and were completely overwhelmed with the whole experience. As soon as one present was opened, little hands would reach out, grabbing for the next one. “What did you bring me?” was the first thing out of Miss 3’s mouth as each new relative arrived at the door. No pleases, no thank-yous, just gimme gimme gimmes.

And so much crap! Awful plastic crap that I just couldn’t stop buying for them in the lead up to Christmas. Bags of crap. Piles of crap. And, by the end of the week, broken crap.

What a waste! $10 here, $20 there – so easy to spend a little bit at a time, and before you know it you’re staring at a pile of presents taller than your Christmas tree.

So this year we’re going to do things a little differently. This year I’m trying my hardest to stick to this little poem:

SOMETHING THEY WANT

SOMETHING THEY NEED

SOMETHING TO WEAR

SOMETHING TO READ

Four presents each. That’s it! Four quality, useful, thoughtful presents, rather than bags and bags of plasticky crap that won’t last the week.

So we’ll probably spend the same amount of money, but the kids will actually have something to show for it when the decorations have all been boxed back up in the garage and Santa has packed up his posse and gone home to the North Pole.

Something else I’ve been keenly aware of this year is all of those little kiddies, in Australia and around the world, who won’t be getting anything at all this Christmas. Kids who are living in families struggling below the poverty line, kids who are homeless, kids in detention centres for no reason other than that their families were trying to find them a safe place to live. And around the world, there are millions of kids who don’t have clean water to drink, enough food to eat, or basic necessities to live. So this Christmas I’ll also be trying to instil in my kids a sense of gratitude for how lucky they are to have what they do, and help them to understand that not everyone is so fortunate.

We’ll be making a trip to Kmart to leave a gift under the tree for the Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal, and I’ll also be donating to a few different charities on behalf of my family and friends.

Some ways to donate gifts to kids who really need them:

Kmart Wishing Tree Appeal

With Mission Australia and the Salvation Army, leave a gift under a tree in store, or donate online.

Simply Giving Website

Donate toys to your favourite charity, including Barnados Australia, The Smith Family, The Salvos, Starlight Foundation, Mission Australia, Vinnies, Variety and more.

Detention Centre Christmas Toy Drive – Eco Toys

Donate toys to kids seeking asylum who have been detained on Nauru.

UNICEF Give an Inspired Gift

Donate practical, life changing gifts to children and families in need around the world. Your donation could provide measles vaccines to a community, blankets, milk substitute sachets or water purification tablets.

Oxfam Unwrapped

When you buy an Oxfam Unwrapped gift, your donation helps support Oxfam Australia’s life-changing work around the world. You buy the gift ‘for’ a family member or friend, and they receive a quirky card explaining how their gift is helping others. Gifts include things like a family of chickens, a pair of goats, a piglet, a duck, clean water – things that will help families in the long term, not just for this Christmas.

Do you find your kids drowning in crap at Christmas? Are you ready to cut the crap too this Christmas?

Author

Rachel McDougall is mum to two cheeky preschoolers - Little Miss and the Stuntman - and relies on coffee, sarcasm and sensible shoes to get through the day. When she's not negotiating cease-fires between her kids, or attempting to meet deadlines for her corporate communications clients, she also blogs at Toilets aren’t for Turtles about the absurdity of raising her tiny humans.

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